Monthly Archives: April 2013

“For She Loved Much!”

“Faith and charity each require the other in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path.  Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen.  . . It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey.”–Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei (n. 14)

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

Read:  Luke 7: 36-50

7: 36  One of the Pharisees:  (In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus dines with the Pharisees three times.)  In order for the woman to stand behind Jesus and still be at His feet, He was probably reclining on His left side as was the custom of the time.

7: 37  a sinner:  The host, Simon, and the dinner guests knew the woman’s reputation.  Jesus’ reputation has already been confirmed:  He befriends even sinners to extend them mercy.  The lavish use of the ointment is an expression of the woman’s courage and contrition.

7: 47  for she loved much:  As illustrated by the parable (7: 41-43), the woman’s love was the effect of her forgiveness NOT the cause.

7: 49  even forgives sins:  Jesus claims to do what the Jews believed only God can do for sinners.

The Four Things Jesus Did During This Encounter

  1. Jesus contrasts her acts of kindness with the lack of these signs of hospitality from His respectable host.
  2. Then, He explains the parable.  “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7: 47)
  3. He turns to the woman and shocks the guests by saying, “Your sins are forgiven.”  (Luke 7: 48)
  4. Finally, He ignores the outrage and tells the woman to go in peace because her faith has saved her.

stpaulNext time:  St. Paul’s drive to demonstrate his love of Christ.

Meditation:  Read Romans 8: 31-39.  What is the only real threat to our Salvation?

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The Samaritan Woman (John 4: 1-42)

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” — St. Augustine in the Confessions.

Let’s assume that everyone has read these verses, so we can talk about it in terms of what Jesus was concerned with when He spoke to the woman at the well.  He uses all His responses to draw her into a topic much more profound than the mere water that she has come to draw–eternal life.  “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Jn 4: 13-14)

Jesus is concerned about the deepest concerns of human existence.  He wants to satisfy our thirst for the ultimate meaning and purpose of life.  Throughout the Gospel, Jesus offers faith in eternal life as the response to the fear of death.

This conversation with the Samaritan woman reveals an important aspect of coming to God in conversion.  God knows us better than we know ourselves and more thoroughly than we are willing to admit to ourselves.  For this reason, the process of conversion entails a thorough examination of conscience, an examination that becomes clearer in the light of Christ resulting in a deeper repentance.

Jesus reveals her life to her.  (Jn 4: 17-18)  Her response to His revelation is two-fold.  She admits that she perceives that Jesus is a prophet.  Secondly, she dodges the issue of her personal life of sin by alluding to a theological dispute between Jews and Samaritans about where to worship.  Isn’t this just like us?  Changing the conversation when anyone or Someone gets too close to the truth?

Let’s examine how Jesus answers her.

  1. In John 4: 21, Jesus addresses her question directly.
  2. In John 4: 22, Jesus states the truth about salvation history.
  3. In John 4: 23-24, Jesus talks about authentic worship.  God will be worshiped in spirit and truth wherever people know the truth.

The woman redirects the conversation once more by speaking of the Messiah. Now, for the first time in the Gospel of John, Jesus clearly states “I who speak to you am He.”  (Jn 4: 26)

Hearing this she runs back to the city telling her fellow citizens about Jesus.  They come out to see Jesus.  After a while, they come to believe in Him “because of His word.” (Jn 4: 41)  The fruit of this visit can be seen in Acts 8: 1-25 when the deacon Philip and then the apostles Peter and John evangelize in Samaria.

Woman at WellNext time:  Charity

Meditation:  How do faith and charity require each other?

 

To my non-Catholic friends who were questioning that baptism was required to be called a Christian, I would like you to read Acts looking for the essential elements of Christian initiation: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion.  As time permits, we will look at these various elements, so that you can determine if baptism is necessary for yourself.

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I Once Was Blind; But Now I See!

Then God goes on to say, “I invite you to a relationship of love: your love of me, my love of you.”  Yes, God comes to us as an invitation to love. . .

At this moment love surges in our heart like a tremendous sea that takes us in and lays us in the arms of God whom we haven’t seen but in whom we believe.  Across the waves we hear, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29).  Now I walk in the darkness of faith and I see.  I see more clearly than is possible with my fleshly eyes.

–Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty

Bartimaeus (Mark 10: 46-52)

Bartimaeus’ eyes are opened by Jesus in two ways.  The obvious opening is the physical one.  The second opening is in Bartimaeus’ response to his healing.  Even though Jesus told him to go his way, Bartimaeus chose to follow Jesus.

Bartimaeus is a model for the process of conversion.  He had a strong faith.  He called out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mk 10:48)  This means that he believed Jesus was the Messiah.  And this belief added to what he had heard about Jesus stirred up a great trust.

When asked what he wanted, Bartimaeus replies, “Master, let me receive my sight.” (Mk 10:51) What boldness!  What confidence!  What faith!

Jesus affirms how important trustful faith is to Him when He replies to Bartimaeus, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  (Mk 10:52)

This convert stays with Jesus to know His teachings and to be formed by them.  He stays with Jesus, trusting in His wisdom.  He stays with Jesus at the cross so that he finds the forgiveness of his sins through Jesus’ suffering.  He stays with Jesus because the Resurrection promises new life.  He stays with Jesus to be nourished and given hope.

Our prayer today and always:  Let us stay with you, Lord.  Let us walk in your light so we may truly see!

(FYI: Tomorrow, Thursday, April 26th is the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist.)

BartimaeusNext time:  the woman at the well

Meditation:  Have we been through our own conversion process?  Are we using this Easter season to really know Jesus through His word?

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Nothing Shall I Want and Nothing Shall I Fear!

Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday.  Thought it was appropriate to let everyone know that my two favorite Psalms are #23 and #91.  I try to pray these as often as I can.  I had a protestant preacher tell a group of business owners that if we pray these every single day and are still anxious and afraid, the we don’t understand (know) the God we are addressing.

That was over 20 years ago.  I have never forgot this little sermon and so these Psalms became a regular part of my daily prayer time.  Read them, yourself, again, soon.  All the Psalms are wonderful, but these two will change your life.

St. Matthew

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’  for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Matthew 9: 12-13

St. Matthew was a tax collector.  Tax collectors were hated.  They collected taxes for the Romans so many Jews considered them traitors.  They made their living by whatever they collected over and above what Rome wanted, thereby making many Jews to consider them thieves.  Pharisees were forbidden to marry into a family that had a tax collector member.  And yet, Jesus says to Matthew, “Follow me.”  (Mt. 9:0)

To follow Jesus took a big act of faith on Matthew’s part.  He left money and a possible lucrative career to follow an itinerant preacher.  Then, Matthew brought Jesus home for a meal with other tax collectors and sinners.  And the Pharisees, duly scandalized, complained to the disciples.

Jesus’ response (quoted above) flew in the face of a doctrine of some of the Pharisees that stated that if all the Jews obeyed all the commandments of God for a half hour the Messiah would come.  Here, Jesus was delaying the arrival of the Messiah by reaching out to sinners.  That is one reason the Pharisees wouldn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  He thought that His Presence was not a reward for good behavior but a remedy for the bad.

This episode also shows how mercy is meant to be spread around.  Sinners invite other sinners to know Jesus.

tsNext time:  Bartimaeus

Meditation:  Read Matthew 9: 9-13.  Consider that act of trust that Matthew was making.

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Wanna Walk on Water? You Gotta Get Out of the Boat!

I have a special love for St. Peter.  Like me, he can be impetuous. (Matthew 14: 28-31)  Like me, he can seem stubborn and outspoken. (Matthew 16: 22-23) Also,  like me, there are times when his imperfections seem magnified in the presence of the Divine Holiness that is Jesus.  In Luke 5: 8, he declares to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

And, so, in the heavenly balcony of my mind, where I have people who encourage me and lift me up, I have St. Peter.  He is there, along with the Lord, Mary, Joseph, St. Paul, and my father, cheering me on in my race to eternal life.

The following passages especially comfort me when I am suffering from physical pain.

This suffering is all a part of the work God has given you.  Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. . .

Dear friends, don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you.  Instead, be really glad- – because these trials will make you partners with Christ in His suffering, and afterwards you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory in that coming day when it will be displayed. . .

After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you His eternal glory.  He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. (1 Peter 2: 21, 4: 12-13, 5:10)

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

Luke 5: 1-11

At the Sea of Galilee, Jesus preaches to the people pressed around Him from Peter’s boat.  When He finishes He tells Peter to put out into the deep and let down his net for a catch.  Now, Peter is an experienced fisherman; he doesn’t think they’ll catch anything during the day when the fish can see the nets being lowered and avoid being caught.

However, Peter, though exhausted from a night of unsuccessful fishing, places his trust in Christ.  (Luke 5: 5)

Then, after a miraculous catch that fills two boats to the point of almost sinking, Peter knows that this is far beyond a natural event.  He declares himself a sinful man; but Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; henceforth, you will be catching men.” (Luke 5: 10)  And, they leave everything and follow Him.

Investigation

Let’s read some Scripture with the view of seeing the various ramifications of Peter’s acceptance of Jesus’ invitation to follow Him that day.  Let me show you how:

Passage:  Matthew 14: 23-33

Notes:  Peter walks on water toward Jesus, but when he takes his eyes and mind off the Lord & notices the wind and waves, he begins to sink.  He cries out, “Lord, save me.”  He is still not certain that Jesus is the Son of God.  His profession of faith comes later.  Because he followed Jesus that day, he gets out of the boat and begins to walk on water and walk toward his journey of conversion and belief in the mysteries of the faith.

Passages:

  • Matthew 18: 21-035
  • Matthew 19: 27-30
  • Matthew 26: 33-41
  • Acts 2: 14-43
  • Acts 4: 1-23
  • Acts 5: 1-16

pppas0030Next time:  St. Matthew and Bartimaeus.

Meditations:

  • Who is in your balcony and why?
  • Is Jesus in your boat?

 

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Conversion: It’s not Just for Pagans, Anymore.

“The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.  In the mystery of his death and Resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5: 31).  For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: ‘We were buried. . . with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life’ (Rom 6: 4).  Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the Resurrection.  To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thought and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life.” –Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei (n. 6)

“Never completely finished in this life.”  The faith journey is ongoing; a sweet adventure, the passage to an eternal life with an infinite God where we will continue to explore the mysteries of faith forever.  This is one my my favorite thoughts to ponder and, yet, it is also a mystery, so I can never wrap my mind around it.  It’s like looking at the night time sky and trying to imagine the universe beyond the stars that we can see: a universe that goes on infinitely; a world without end.

However, I can wrap my mind around people and relationships.  I know that Jesus calls us to have a relationship with Him and to convert and follow Him.  We must turn away from the bad direction we are heading and find the good way.  Faith is the act of believing that there is a good path to follow.  Faith in Jesus believes that He is the Way to eternal life with the Father and that He will strengthen us to walk the right path all the way to its completion in eternity.

During the next few times on this blog, we are going to study some examples from the New Testament of persons who heard Jesus’ call and followed Him.  In other words, they “converted.”

On Friday, we will begin with St. Peter who is mentioned the most in the New Testament after Jesus.  After studying him, we will consider St. Matthew, Bartimaeus, and the Woman at the Well.

There are many conversion stories in the New Testament.  Faith in Jesus changed the lives of:

  • Zachaeus  Luke 19: 1-10
  • A man born blind  John 9: 35-38
  • the Ethiopian eunuch  Acts 8: 26-40
  • Saul  Acts 9: 1-22
  • Cornelius  Acts 10: 1-48
  • Lydia  Acts 16: 11-15
  • the jailer in Philippi  Acts 16: 25-34

This week let us pray the 13th century prayer of St. Richard of Whyche.

“O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly; love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.”

100px-Dürer-PetrusNext time:  Simon Peter

Meditation:  How might I be blind to my own faults or sins?

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So What Do Catholics Believe?

“Not without reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory.  It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in baptism.  With words rich in meaning, Saint Augustine speaks of this in a homily on the redditio symboli, the handing over of the creed: ‘ the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord.  You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts.'” –Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei (n.9)

Instead of professing the Creed on Easter Sunday, the priest poses the questions of the Baptismal liturgy to the whole congregation so that we may all respond with a faithful “I do!”  So, at least, once a year, we can renew our baptismal promises and affirm our assent to the fundamentals of the mysteries of our faith.

Every other Sunday, we renew our act of faith in the mysteries of revelation by proclaiming the Nicene Creed.  We renew our commitment to our Faith by saying “Credo!” or “I believe!”

Now we are going to look up the Scriptures that underlie each statement of the Creed.  May God’s grace help us to make ever deeper commitments to these mysteries.  And may we come to know Him more intimately through them.

The following is taken from The Year of Faith by Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.  (pg. 40-41)

Page One

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Next Time:  Conversion

Meditation:  What new insight about the faith have we received from the cited Scripture readings this past week?

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